I hope you all enjoyed your dinner. Is everyone full? No? Waiter!
How many of you like to take a walk after dinner? Thereâ€™s nothing like a postprandial to settle your meal.
Since this is a walk in our imaginations, Iâ€™ll take you to one of my favorite cities, a city almost made for walking: Hong Kong.
Weâ€™ll start our perambulation on Salisbury Road in the Kowloon section of Hong Kong, in front of the venerable Peninsula Hotel. The Penn, arguably one of the finest hotels in the world, has been the temporary home of royalty, movie stars, and dignitaries, for more than eight decades. The parking area in front of the hotel displays a couple dozen luxury cars, including the hotelâ€™s signature fleet of dark green Rolls-Royce Silver Spurs. I once saw a quarter of a million dollar Lamborghini parked here. Right inside the front door is a dining area that is the epitome of elegance. Each afternoon, high tea is served here, where even a commoner like me can sip coffee or tea, munch scones, and engage in a little celebrity spotting. Be careful how you dress, though. I once had to sheepishly retrace my steps when I was turned away at the door for wearing shorts!
Here we will cross Salisbury Road and walk to the ultra-modern Hong Kong Cultural Centre, directly across from the Penn. The Cultural Center houses the Concert Hall â€“ home of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Grand Theater â€“ used for large scale opera, ballet, and musicals. As we wait to cross, Mercedes, Taxis, and double-decker buses wiz by in a blur. Only the very brave or the very foolish attempt to jaywalk here! The light changes and we cross.
We enter the lobby of the cultural center, pausing briefly to look at posters advertising upcoming events, and then we exit through the back door onto the Victoria Harbor Promenade. Across the harbor, against the green backdrop of the mountain that is Hong Kong Island, we see an array of skyscrapers, the tallest of which, the 88 storey International Financial Center, is the seventh highest building in the world. Another of Hong Kongâ€™s signature buildings, the Bank of China building, rises like a pure quartz crystal from the skyline. This is unquestionably one of the most beautiful cityscapes in the world.
We wonâ€™t spend too much time here, but weâ€™ll be back! We walk quickly to the west and arrive at the Star Ferry Pier. Ferries leave here every 7 minutes whisking commuters from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and back. There are two classes of service: first class on the upper deck, and second class on the lower. I discovered long ago that in this case second class is better, for it is far more interesting. We take our places in line. The half century old ferries may be quaint, but thereâ€™s nothing old fashioned about paying the fare. We swipe our smart cards over the sensor, and walk through the turnstiles. We can also use our cards on the buses, subways, and even at McDonaldâ€™s!
The ferry arrives, the gate opens, and we jostle with the rest of the passengers to board before all the seats are taken. Hong Kong is no place to visit if you donâ€™t like crowds!
We find seats on the port side of the boat. Now you see why the lower deck is more interesting. All the action takes place here. Middle-aged men dressed in loose-fitting light blue sailor suits handle the lines as the ferry casts off, quickly faking the rope onto the deck in perfect spirals. The pilot house is also located on this deck, so we can watch as he steers the boat to the opposite side. Weâ€™re close to the water here, and you can smell the spray as it wets passengers standing too close to the guard rail. The magnificent skyline we saw from the Promenade looms larger and larger as was we approach.
We stand and head for the gangway before the ferry docks, so we can be among the first to disembark. The ferry glides to the pier and its side bumps against the fender. The sailors cast the lines to similarly-dressed colleagues on the pier who quickly tie the ferry up to the dock. Once all is secure a shrill whistle blast indicates all clear and the gangway drops. We quickly disembark and head for the exit.
Now Iâ€™ll show you what I mean about this being a walking city. We climb one flight of stairs near the exit and find ourselves on a covered walkway. As you can see, these raised walkways connect most of the major buildings in the city. You can do an entire day of shopping and dining without ever touching down at street level! The walkways also go to the mid-levels escalator which takes you half way up Victoria Peak to many interesting shops, expensive residential areas, a mosque, and the Man Mo Temple.
But now weâ€™ll head back across Victoria Harbor to witness the climax of our evening walk, the Symphony of Lights. We disembark the ferry back in Kowloon, walk back along the Promenade, and find seats on the raised platform in front of the Cultural Center facing the harbor. Itâ€™s dark now, and we watch in anticipation the 44 skyscrapers on both sides of the harbor whose outlines are now traced with neon lights. At precisely 8 pm, music begins to pulsate behind us. The skyscrapers come alive as colors chase each other along the edges of the buildings. Powerful searchlights on the tops of buildings beam straight up, sweeping the bottoms of low clouds in time with the music. Brilliant green lasers shoot from the buildings on Hong Kong Island; some pass right over our heads and dance on the walls of the Cultural Center behind us, pulsating in time with the music. The mood changes as the techno beat gives way to classical music and the lighting changes to match. Weâ€™re swept along with the rest of the audience for the rest of the 14 minute show. Wasnâ€™t that wonderful? Shall we head back to the Peninsula Hotel for a drink?